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From Odyssey of the Mind to Coding

Lessons Learned from a Coach (and Parent!)

Calling all parents of curious young minds! Did you know that the Odyssey of the Mind (OM) World Finals was last week in Ames, Iowa? Over 700 teams from around the world came together to showcase their creative problem-solving skills – and let me tell you, these kid-created solutions are truly inspiring!

Why am I, a kids coding coach, talking about Odyssey of the Mind?

For five years I had the privilege of coaching  amazing OM teams. Three years in the non-competitive Primary category (K-2), and two years in Division 1 (3rd-5th graders). The experience went beyond the technical aspects of building things, writing scripts, and theatrical performances.  It was about nurturing imagination, teamwork, and personal growth.  There are so many things that I learned as an OM coach that are brought into the programs we create here at Kai Coders.

Lessons Learned from OM

Seven elementary school students stand outside holding two trophies.
North Star Elementary students: 2023 Odyssey of the MInd World Champs, Division 1 Vehicle Problem.
  • Teamwork Really Does Make the Dream Work: The program fosters incredible teamwork and camaraderie among kids. They learn to collaborate, share ideas, and support each other – skills that are essential for success in any field, including coding!

  • The Power of "No Outside Assistance" (OA): One of the core principles of Odyssey of the Mind is that solutions come entirely from the kids. This "no grown-up help" rule allows their creativity to flourish and fosters a sense of ownership over their accomplishments.  As a coach and a parent this can be a tough rule to navigate because sometimes you just want to jump in and give your advice, but really the kids can handle it and your “help” is not needed. 

  • The Power of Failure:  Let's talk about the real stuff! Not every Odyssey of the Mind project goes according to plan. In fact, last year, our team's vehicle propulsion solution wasn't working consistently until the DAY BEFORE the state finals! (Yes, you read that right – this coach was holding her breath during the entire 7-minute performance just hoping that the vehicle didn’t break down!) But guess what? They persevered, worked those troubleshooting skills, and their hard work paid off. They took first place at States and won the coveted “350” Award for a perfect score, and eventually went on to become World Champs! Most importantly, this experience taught them the valuable lesson that failure is a natural part of the learning process. It's about picking yourself up, adapting, and completing what you set out to do even when the solution has changed from what you first envisioned.

Four students gathered around a laptop sharing the screen.
CodeMosaic students share their work at the end-of-program Showcase

From OM to Coding: Thinking Beyond the Box The lessons learned from Odyssey of the Mind translate beautifully to our programs at Kai Coders. We create a space where kids:

  • Explore and Experiment (and Get Messy!): We provide a safe environment for kids to play, experiment with wild ideas (divergent thinking), and learn from them – just like they do in OM! In coding, and really any creative pursuit, sometimes getting messy is part of the process. It's about letting go of inhibitions and embracing the unexpected. Who knows, the craziest idea might just spark the next big breakthrough!

  • Build Teamwork Skills: Our coding projects often involve collaboration.  Just like solving those amazing OM problems, collaboration often leads to more creative ideas.

  • Own Their Creations: Kids have the satisfaction of building their own characters, programs, games, and animations – a feeling that mirrors the pride of a successful OM solution.

  • Embrace Failure as a Learning Tool: We know that coding can be challenging, and sometimes things don't work right away or the way that we originally thought they would. That's okay! Our instructors help kids develop debugging skills, pursue alternate solutions, and celebrate the "aha!" moments that come with overcoming obstacles.

  • Sharpen Those Creative Muscles: Creativity Can Be Learned! Just like any other skill, creativity can be honed and improved through practice. We incorporate challenging and engaging activities that encourage kids to think outside the box and approach problems from different perspectives.

Ready to Take on the World!

The best part as a coach? Witnessing the incredible confidence boost our students experience as they progress. They learn to think critically, solve problems independently, collaborate effectively, and sometimes get messy while doing it. This newfound confidence spills over into all aspects of their lives. They're no longer afraid to tackle challenges, embrace new ideas, and tinker their way to solutions.

At Kai Coders, we believe that every child has the potential to be a world-changer. Are you ready to help your child unlock their creativity and get ready to take on the world? Contact us today to learn more about our exciting coding programs!

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